INTRODUCING CINDERELLA: Meet the Northern Iowa Panthers

(Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
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Conference: Missouri Valley

Coach: Ben Jacobson

Record: 22-12, 11-7 (t-4th)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 80
RPI: 80
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: Because of the wins that UNI has landed this season, don’t be surprised to see them sneak onto the No. 12 or No. 13 seed line.

Names you need to know: Wes Washpun (14.2 points, 5.3 assists), a hyper-athletic, 6-foot point guard, is the star of the show. He’s also the most inconsistent player on the roster. Paul Jespersen and Matt Bohannon are the two snipers on UNI’s wins, while Jeremy Morgan is their defensive stopper.

Stats you need to know: UNI is not going to play fast-paced basketball. They grind it out defensively and run the clock offensively, putting the ball in Washpun’s hands and letting him create by spacing the floor with shooters. They are the worst offensive rebounding team in the country and they take more than 42 percent of their field goals from beyond the arc.

Big wins, bad losses: The Panthers are so inconsistent, as evidenced by their 2-6 start to Valley play. But they have wins over North Carolina, Iowa State and Wichita State twice, including in the Koch Center.

How’d they get here?: The Panthers were the cinderellas of the Missouri Valley tournament, rolling past No. 1 seed Wichita State before picking off Evansville in the title game. They blew a 17-point lead in the final, but they advanced thanks to this wild, incredibly lucky bounce.

Outlook: The Panthers are dangerous. How many teams at any level have the wins that UNI has? There’s a chance that they end up on the No. 12 seed line, and if they do, we’re looking at the single-most popular 12-over-5 upset. I can see them getting to the second weekend of the tournament. But I can also see UNI losing by 30 in the first round. You never really know what you are going to get out of this team on a game-to-game basis, but they have won 12 of their last 13 games. Maybe it’s now safe to assume we’re going to get the best version of the Panthers?

How do I know you?: Because the most famous terrible shot in the history of basketball was taken by a Northern Iowa player named Ali Farokhmanesh: